In Singapore on 12 June 2018, Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un met for “an historic” diplomatic summit that both the Trump administration and media are hailing as a resounding success and a true step towards peace in the region.
Yesterday Mike Pompeo, US secretary for defence, stated that the US hopes to achieve major disarmament in the Korean peninsula by 2020. His boss went even further and boasted on Twitter that North Korea is “no longer a nuclear threat.”
Whilst this summit truly can be described as historic in the technical sense that it’s the first time ever that and American President has ever officially met a North Korean Dictator, it was definitely not the instant smash hit success that the Trump administration have billed it as.
Despite their rhetoric, the summit achieved and set no concrete political goals. The two spoke for just 45 minutes before trotting off for a photo shoot like a pair of basic white girls.
From their brief conversation came a non-binding joint statement that outline broad objectives that both men have said they will “work towards.” Diplomatic jargon for “we already know we aren’t gonna do it, hun.”
In that joint statement, Trump and Kim said that they would “work towards” peace on the Korean peninsular and “denuclearisation.” Which sounds like a word that Donald made up on the spot when he couldn’t remember the term nuclear disarmament.
It’s not clear what the pair meant by either peace or the “denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula. This could be something as drastic as full nuclear disarmament of both the North and South, or it could be something as minor as the removal of US nuclear support for the South.
Before actual definitions, targets, and time frames for these objectives are set, there is no way for sure to say what “denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula” will look like or if that is even going to happen.
Trump is seriously jumping the gun if he thinks that, thanks to this one summit in Singapore, that Korea is suddenly no longer a nuclear threat to world.
Although nothing in the joint statement from them directly mentions this, at the summit Trump himself made a massive concession to North Korea that could put South Korea in danger, further sour the relationship with Americas’ allies, and put his negotiating position against Kim in jeopardy. He is stopping the joint military exercises in South Korea.
Since 1953 these comprehensive air, land, and sea exercises have served as a visible deterrent against North Korean military aggression, and a symbol of the United States’ commitment to South Korean security. Japans’ defence minister has cautioned that the move threatens the security of East Asia as a whole. Great.
By calling them off, Trump is sending the message that America is no longer willing to stand up to North Korea’s bullying tactics, which arguably severely weakens their negotiating power in the eyes of North Korea and puts South Korea and America’s East Asian allies at much greater risk of attack from the North.
In short, whilst the summit was indeed historic in a technical sense, only time will tell if it will be significant in terms of fostering a lasting peace on the peninsula. For now, North Korea is still a very real threat to peace in the region, perhaps even more so now that the President has demonstrated, through his cancellation of the joint military exercises, that he is far less interested than his predecessors in South Korean security.
Oh well. At least Donald and Kim got some cute plandids out of it!